As the news of the 2020 MLB season spreads like wildfire, bringing hope to every sports fan that has not seen a huge sports game since March, the first game of the new season has apparently been announced.
The defending MLB champions, Washington Nationals, will look to go back-to-back after defeating the Houston Astros in 7 games in the 2019 World Series as they will be hosting the New York Yankees on June 23, assuming the MLB season will be able to happen while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the country.
A few months ago, MLB fans would’ve started to assume that Washington should’ve played New York after the Houston Astros, who defeated the Yankees in last season’s ALCS, were accused of being involved in a sign-stealing scandal, which apparently happened during the 2018 season, when they lost to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, and during the 2017 season, when they won the World Series for their first-ever World Series win. Now, the Yankees vs. Nationals will happen to being the shortened season, considering a geographical and divisional series matchup is in line for each team this season.
Last season, the Yankees managed to capture over 100 wins and their first AL East title since 2013 while getting through an injury-plagued year that resulted in roughly 30 players suffering numerous injuries that have kept them out for either a huge portion of the season, or the entire season in particular. Players such as Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar, and Luis Severino suffered injuries that didn’t give them the full season they wanted to use to play their best baseball possible. With all the injuries they went through, manager Aaron Boone in his second season with the Yankees looked for players such as Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, and Gio Urshela to be the playmakers. Winning the AL East, the Yankees swept the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS before eventually falling to the Astros in 6 games in the ALCS.
The Nationals last season found themselves in an early hole near the halfway point of the season and before the All-Star break, where they found themselves with a 19-33 record, highlighted by being swept in 4 games by the New York Mets, who finished with an 86-76 record and came up short of a playoff appearance, prompting the firing of their former manager Mickey Callaway. The Nationals managed to finish the regular season with a 93-69 record, 2nd-best record in the NL East, and hosted the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card game. They posted an 8th-inning comeback to win the Wild Card, outlasted the Los Angeles Dodgers in 5 games in the NLDS, and swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.
With the Yankees at Nationals as the first game of the season, there is no doubt they will both be unleashing their best starting pitchers at Nationals Park. As the Nationals plan to use RHP Max Scherzer, the Yankees projected starting pitcher for Opening Day will be a brand-new face, RHP Gerritt Cole. Cole, a former Astros pitcher who was with Houston for the last two seasons, will be the newest addition to the Bronx after signing a monster 7-year, $324 million deal with the Yankees, and looks to help the Yankees with what appears to be another bout of woes on the mound with J.A. Happ unlikely to return to the Yankees due to injury along with Luis Severino, who had Tommy John surgery at the beginning of Spring Training.
The last recent series meeting between the Yankees and Nationals was in June 2018 when each team got two wins against each other. The Yankees have a slight 17-15 advantage over Washington, dating back to 1997 when the Nationals were still known as the Montreal Expos before they played the Yankees as the Nationals for the first time in 2006.
As Opening Day 2020 looming near, the Yankees and Nationals may be preparing for the possibility of no fans in the stands at their stadiums, which could bring in artificial crowd noise as some stadiums are currently doing at the moment with sports that have resumed at this time. With people speculating on how it could affect the teams while they’re playing, the teams themselves will continue to prepare for an MLB season they may have never seen before.